Hayfever & Allergies - Why they can worsen or develop during menopause

Eileen Durward

10 April 2017

Read the full video transcript below

Today's topic

Hello, and welcome to my weekly video blog. And today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be looking at hayfever and allergies. Because at this time of the year, especially in the UK, this is the time when allergies often appear. And what we have found is that an awful lot of women are suddenly getting hayfever symptoms and allergies for the first time in the menopause. But I'm going to look at it slightly different today, and I'm going to focus on something called histamine.

What is histamine?

Now, histamine is a chemical in the body that's released when there is some kind of irritant or injury to the body. But what we have discovered is that histamine can also play a big part in other menopause symptoms as well. 
Now, histamine normally, is a very important part of the way in which our immune system works. So, if you imagine maybe you're chopping up some carrots for dinner and you end up cutting yourself, what happens is, very quickly, you will notice that the whole area starts to become red, it might become quite hot, and it might get a little bit swollen. And what is happening here is, because there has been an injury, the immune system suddenly jumps in and goes, "Wow, we need to watch this because there could be some bugs getting in through that cut, and we need to make sure that we stop them on the spot."
So, histamine is released, and it opens up the blood vessels, it allows more of the blood to get to the injury point, so that white blood cells who fight infection can get there as quick as possible and stop any invading germs causing an infection to the cut site. Now, that's very important, we need this reaction in order to keep us safe every time we injure or hurt ourselves.

Why histamine causes problems during menopause

But the problem is in the menopause, that all sorts of different factors can end up stressing our immune system, and this histamine reaction basically goes wild. It starts to overfire, it starts to fire when it shouldn't do, and this is what very often contributes to a lot of menopause symptoms. 
Now, why on earth would the menopause cause problems with our immune system? Well, there's a number of reasons for this.

1. Menopause stresses your nervous system

First of all, we know that the menopause stresses our nervous system, and if the nervous system is jumpy and overfires, that's going to have a possible corresponding effect on our immune system.

2. Menopause causes fatigue

We know that falling oestrogen and all the hormonal changes that are going on can make us very, very fatigued, and fatigue will have an effect on our immune system.

3. Menopause affects your sleep

We know that the menopause can affect our sleep, and if we're getting destructive sleep because of sweats or flushes or anxiety then, very quickly, that can have quite a profound effect on how efficient and effective our immune system is. 

4. Menopause upsets your digestion

We know also, that the menopause can affect our digestion. Now, it can affect our absorption, so we may not be getting all the nutrients that we need in order to support our immune system, but it can also affect our friendly bacteria in our digestive system. And the friendly bacteria are basically the vanguard for our immune system. We need healthy bacteria in order for the immune system to function properly too.

5. Dehydration & liver function

So, we've also got dehydration, that can be a big factor in our immune system, and also liver function. We know that the changing hormones and everything else is going on in the body can stress our liver, and the liver can play a huge part in actually deactivating histamine. 

Becoming more allergic & sensitive to things

So, you can see already that there's a huge number of issues in the menopause that can then have a detrimental effect on our immune system. Now, this reaction with histamine can also trigger other allergies such as skin rashes. You can end up being allergic to things that you weren't allergic to before. It can also cause sensitive skin, it can also cause itchy skin, and it can also cause flare ups in your joints as well. 

What you can do to help yourself

So, what can you do about this whole situation? Well, first of all, look at all the symptoms that I've already mentioned. Is your nervous system under pressure? You know. Maybe look at some extra magnesium, get some nice calming remedies such as Avena Sativa in there as well or a nice vitamin B supplement. Is your sleep interrupted or disrupted? Then, maybe look at herbs such as valerian and hops.

Have you had antibiotics lately? Do you find you get a lot of bloating, a lot of indigestion? Maybe look at taking a probiotic supplement for a month or two just to get those friendly bacteria up and running again.

And remember the fatigue, so try and get a little bit of rest and relaxation in, and your immune system will be eternally grateful even for 30 minutes a day, just to help to calm everything down.

Water, really, really important here. The more histamine in your system and the more dehydrated you are, the stronger the histamine becomes, and therefore, the more you'll react to it and the more swelling, inflammation, and irritation actually occurs.

And your liver, you know, maybe do a month of some liver support work with something like Milk Thistle Complex

Hayfever remedies during menopause

So, looking at hayfever itself, if you find that this spring and summer you've started to get hayfever symptoms for the first time, then you can look at things to strengthen your immune system, you can look at maybe taking a course of Echinacea.

We also do a lovely natural hayfever remedy called Pollinosan. It's homeopathic, seems to work quite quickly for most people, it is fine with other medication, so you can take it if you're on HRT, and it doesn't make you drowsy. So, if you have a very busy life where you have to keep your brain in tiptop condition, then it's something you could actually try as well. 

Keep an eye on the Pollen Count for your area!

If you have suddenly developed hayfever or find that your hayfever symptoms have got worse, then it is important to keep any eye on pollen levels during spring and summer.

Our 5-day UK Pollen Forecast is updated daily and includes pollen counts and information for local areas including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool and more.

Visit our 5-day UK Pollen Forecast

Itchy skin

If you're getting the itchy skin, if you're getting things like hives, if you're getting flare ups at any point during the day, you can look at nettle. Nettle is a wonderful antihistamine. You can either have nettle tincture, you can also have nettle tea, a couple of cups of nettle tea a day can often be just enough to sort this one out.

Remember vitamin C as well. This is another natural antihistamine, but look at taking it little and often. A huge dose once a day is not going to be as effective as taking it two or three times a day in slightly smaller doses.

If you are getting the itchy skin, if you're getting the irritated skin, if you're getting skin rashes on a regular basis, and maybe if it's nothing to do with hayfever, then look at what you're putting on your skin, look at what you're wearing. 

Sensitive skin

Falling oestrogen can make the skin more sensitive, it can also make the skin thinner, and the skin becomes more reactive to your body creams, your shampoo, your soaps, your shower gels.

And also, the fact that, you know, we wash our clothes in chemical detergents, and then we put fabric conditioner on the top, and that can be enough just to irritate our skin at this particular point.

I know myself, up here in Scotland, in the winter, it can get quite cold, and I always used to find that wearing pure woolen jumpers or occasionally something like angora was lovely and toasty. 
But I found going through the menopause, that my skin became really sensitive and if I put on these types of jumpers, my skin would itch whole day long. So, I had to kind of forego those for a little while until everything settled down.

Consider natural products

Look at going for natural washing powders and conditioners, and going for more natural skin creams. And your local health food shop will probably have a nice range that will suit all sorts of purses.

And if you're really stuck, and I've seen me doing it sometimes after having a shower and my skin's been feeling really dry and I've had nothing in the bathroom cabinet, is your coconut oil, which very often you can use for cooking. If you get a nice organic one, you can actually use that for the skin as well and it keeps everything lovely and soft.

What to remember...

So, as you can see, there is a whole range of issues here that can make us more allergic to things, more sensitive to things as well. So, have a good look at what you're doing, and above all, make sure that you're drinking plenty of water because this is one of the best things for helping with the histamine.

So, let me know how you get on, and I will look forward to seeing you next week on A.Vogel Talks Menopause.

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  • Marion's photo avatar
    Marion — 16.06.2017 07:57
    I just wanted to say that I have been type 1 diabetic for 35 years,recently lost my Dad and am 55. I was losing about half my life due to confused head, night sweats, loss of memory etc. I told my GP and he gave me a very mild anti-depressant. within a week All my symptoms were reduced, felt much calmer and 6 weeks later I feel I have my life back.


    • eileen's photo avatar
      eileen — 16.06.2017 10:21
      Hi Marion Great to hear that the medication has helped you, it can be a life-saver for some women!


  • Jeri's photo avatar
    Jeri — 14.04.2017 17:13
    Thank you Eileen your blogs are so informative and very helpful now I can finally understand what I have been experiencing, I can now associate all my symptoms when I read your blogs it's all adding up, for months I taught my life was just wasting away but my mind is so much at ease now I still have some symptoms but not as bad as a few months ago some symptoms come and go


    • Eileen's photo avatar
      Eileen — 18.04.2017 14:06
      I am glad symptoms are getting easier Jeri.


  • Lesley's photo avatar
    Lesley — 12.04.2017 11:26
    Thank you for the wonderful site - informative and supportive!


    • Eileen's photo avatar
      Eileen — 12.04.2017 13:36
      Thank you Lesley!


  • Susan pridmore's photo avatar
    Susan pridmore — 12.04.2017 09:12
    Thanks for these emails every week i have bought some natural sleeping tablets and the night time support menopause vitamins I'm also eating a lot more natural yogurt with fruit for my IBS symptoms and find it very helpful and my sleep has improved so thankyou for your advice and help


    • Eileen's photo avatar
      Eileen — 12.04.2017 12:30
      Fantastic to know Thank you


  • Rosalind Little's photo avatar
    Rosalind Little — 11.04.2017 21:49
    Thank-you, I wondered why I was suddenly all stuffed up. headaches too.


    • Eileen's photo avatar
      Eileen — 12.04.2017 08:12
      I hope this information has helped. Thank you


  • Niana Fox's photo avatar
    Niana Fox — 11.04.2017 14:13
    WOW! Thank you so much. I never would have made that association.


    • Eileen's photo avatar
      Eileen — 12.04.2017 08:12
      Thank you for your comment!


  • Susan Bailey's photo avatar
    Susan Bailey — 11.04.2017 10:23
    I never realised how much my itchy skin and lack of sleep were affected by the menopause. Although I have not been medically diagnosed with Menopause so many of the symptoms listed are what I am affected by, plus the fact that I have not have a period for the past three months. I take antidepressants at the moment, so my doctor won't prescribe HRT. Now I have a much clearer idea on what to take and why my body is behaving the way it does, it has put my mind at rest a lot. Thank you.


    • Eileen's photo avatar
      Eileen — 11.04.2017 13:52
      Hi Susan, The menopause symptoms can vary so much from individual to individual. I am glad you find the website helpful, we really appreciate your comment.


  • Paramjit 's photo avatar
    Paramjit — 10.04.2017 21:12
    Hi Eileen hope u ok I have primenopause and I have very itching skin and Also acne. I have not been taking any hrt I wanted to do naturally my face skin has also has been very thin its look like aging skin am very worried so many problems am having place can u advice my I will really appreciate thanks


    • Eileen's photo avatar
      Eileen — 11.04.2017 07:49
      Hello, The hormonal shift in the approach to the menopause can cause lots of skin problems. Firstly, make sure you are drinking heaps of plain water to hydrate the skin. You could try a gentle liver tonic like Milk thistle complex for a few months to help symptoms such as acne. A cup of nettle tea can help any itching. Another useful supplement from the health food shop is Sea Buckthorn oil capsules as this can not only help dryness in different areas of the body but can help to plump up skin.


  • Jo's photo avatar
    Jo — 10.04.2017 20:41
    Hi, during the menopause I have become allergic / intolerant to many things, including wheat/lactose and have had an anaphylactic reaction to morphine following a routine operation on my knee. I am post menopausal (2 yes since have had a period) and wonder whether you know if these allergies stop or reduce when your hormones calm down?


    • Eileen's photo avatar
      Eileen — 11.04.2017 07:49
      Yes, you’ll be relieved to know that many reactions often calm down once your hormones stop jigging about. The reason (or part of the reason) for the increase in reactions is that falling oestrogen levels mean you are less able to control your histamine production. Using heaps of natural antihistamines – nettles, vitamin C, quercetin, etc., can be helpful in the meantime; and do ensure that you drink plenty of water and stay away from caffeine.


  • Janice's photo avatar
    Janice — 10.04.2017 19:47
    I have found that I need to take an antiallergic medication nearly every day now. I also suffer from dry skin patches all over my body which itch and then scab over. I have complained to my doctor about this for well over a year but they don't seem interested. I have just started to drink more water as this is something I don't usually do. It's far too early to tell if it's helping or not. I appreciate all your advise and info and I am currently trying out different things to see if they make a difference. I am just getting myself back into full time employment after being unemployed after 6 months so I need to feel 100%. I will let you know how I get on.


    • Eileen's photo avatar
      Eileen — 11.04.2017 09:15
      Thank you for your comment. Let me know how you get on. The feedback has been wonderful from women who find drinking more plain water has made such a difference to symptoms.


  • Cathy's photo avatar
    Cathy — 10.04.2017 19:17
    This was so fortuitous that this came into my inbox at the moment. Since having a total hysterectomy Nov 2016 - I have had a chronic case of hives which pop up all over my body including ear lobes, eyes, face, feet and hands. I have sen several doctors and been to an allergy clinic and their only solution is to either to give me large amounts of antihistamine or steroids that have both made things worse which the doctors have seen but to get anything else I have to prove that those 'cures' don't work over 3 mths before they will try anything else - NICE guidelines! I have said that I feel it is hormonal but none of them agree.When I next see one of them I will show them your article. I have read many online forums and have been trying probiotics with VitD3 (5000) which has seemed to help. When I don't have the large welts I have itchy skin which is all driving me slightly bonkers. I am definitely going to try the nettle tea to see if that helps.


    • Eileen's photo avatar
      Eileen — 11.04.2017 09:15
      Hi Cathy, Sorry to hear that you have had a difficult time. I would suggest the nettle tincture instead of the tea form along with a Vitamin C supplement as well. A natural anti-histamine from a Health food shop such as Quercetin can be beneficial here. Best wishes.


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